Terry Ilous - XYZ

January 24, 2008

Photo Credit: Terry Ilous

Hello Terry. How have you been?

I've been really, really working on so many things at the same time. Trying to make money and besides money, trying to get a career going. It's not always easy but that's the beauty of it.

Well, cool. Then we'll be talking about all of that shit.

Let's talk about it.

The last time we sat down and talked over the phone, you had put out the XYZ demos CD and the Letter To God CD so it's been a long time.

It's been a while.

What have you been up to in the interim?

Last time we talked I had put out Letter To God and after that I had released an album called Forbidden Demos which is a compilation of all the demos that I have recorded prior to getting signed to Capitol Records. The only reason I did that is to set the record straight because there was an ex-guitar player of mine who released without my consent some demos of mine. It was a bootleg actually and the quality was so bad. He actually got a hold of a bunch of cassettes and from these cassettes he went ahead and made a CD.

Aren't there some kind of tools that you can use that could make a good quality CD that's recorded from cassette tapes? It might cost a little bit of money.

Well, it did cost a lot of money but still the cassette he had was a 16 year old cassette copy. Out of this cassette, not even the master, he went on ahead and made and sold CDs obviously online using my name, pictures, and everything. Telling everyone it was the first XYZ album. He sold a lot of it. In order to set the record straight I immediately released all the demos that I had. Of course since I had the masters, the original masters, it was a very different story. I could remaster everything, remix even some of the songs which was easy to do so since I had the masters, and I went ahead and released an album called Forbidden Demos. This is a collection of all the tracks from 1985 to 1991. Even songs off the first and second albums. We demoed a lot of songs and these were all the demos. The fans and purists really love that because it actually gives them a chance to hear the songs before they were actually recorded and produced by Dokken or by whoever produced our albums. The fans really like that and that album did really well. After that I released another album called Here And Gone. That album came out in July of '07 and it's also a compilation of some tracks that I have released recently on two soundtracks. I do a lot of music for soundtracks and films. A lot of rock and roll tracks, mostly heavy metal tracks, and also a lot of songs that I have recorded with other artists like the late Randy Castillo and people like that. Randy Castillo and members of Black Sabbath and Vinny Appice. My God, the drummer for the Scorpions. A lot of people I had worked with over the years and I had these songs and decided I might as well release them. So that's what I did.

I know that people record a lot of shit and some of it actually makes it on a record and some of it just sits around the studio. I always wonder if people ever go back to that stuff and go "hey, why don't I just put all this out?"

Yeah, I get so many e-mails from fans telling me "hey man, how do I get a hold of that song?" They knew I released a song for example called "Unconditional". They ask "how do I get a hold of that song?" Well, 20 years ago a soundtrack was released and here's the link so people can buy it. And then they say "how do I get a hold of that song?" I get about 10 to 15 emails a day asking for these songs. Upon that I decided to release all the songs. I made a statement on my website that I have all these songs and I'll be printing 1,000 copies of the CD and whoever wants a copy to go ahead. Well, I ended up having to print more copies because the 1,000 copies went fast. Three weeks later I had no more CDs so I was like fuck, I need to print another 1,000 so that's what I did.

People don't really hear that much out of you so every little piece of music that they can collect...

Well, thank you. I do it for the fans and the purists keep calling me. Some of them have my number and some of them know how to get a hold of me. They email me at least once a week. "Hey, what's going on? When are you going to play live?" I tell them I keep playing. I do a lot of shows live. I just did a show Saturday. I played at the NAMM show but I do restricted shows. I don't like to go on the road. Going on the road is expensive and nowadays it's getting even worse so I go on the road when it's okay to do so. This is what I've been doing and musically I've been doing that and of course doing music for film and TV and stuff like that.

Here's a question someone wanted me to ask you. You do songs for advertising jingles and she was wanting to know how you break into that sort of thing?

Okay, well for that I have an agent. I have an agent based in New York City and I work with the biggest agency in New York. They posted my voice on their site and basically jingle companies when they're looking for a voice have a particular idea of whose they want. Either they're looking for some kind of bluesy voice or a raspy kind of voice or someone with a bit of an accent sometimes or someone with a flavor. Then they contact my agent and say "who do you have with that type of sound?" So she has me and that's it. So she says "well, we have Terry." But if they're looking for a clean voice, for example that happens a lot, someone with no accent, someone with a very pure and beautiful voice, then they ask my agent who they have and they have 50 people. So, all these people get the jobs and I don't get the job. My voice is really specific. Doesn't appeal to everyone and that's why I get some jobs and some jobs I don't but that's life. Usually again, the composer has an idea and he knows what he's looking for. I just did something else for another company and they were looking for a heavy metal voice. Hard rock. Something really edgy but somebody has to sing, not like a screamer. Someone that can sing but is still heavy metal.

No cookie monster.

Yeah. So they call my agent and ask "who do you have?" She submitted two singers and I ended up doing the demo but I didn't get the gig. The other guy got it. Obviously when they heard the track they decided that I have a higher pitch and the other guy has a much lower pitch and they decided to go for his voice instead of my voice. It could have been the other way around. You never know.

I think you have an awesome voice.

Well, thank you. There are so many great singers. It's just a matter of who you like for the job. That'ís basically what it is. I tried out a few years ago for a commercial for Shell. They were redoing a song by ZZ Top called "La Grange". They wanted someone to sing kind of like that but not exactly like that. I did it. Unfortunately the key was wrong. My voice doesn't sound too good when I do that hmmm, hmm, hmm. I guess I could have made it sound French like un huh, huh, huh. That would have worked. But I didn't so they used somebody else who had a lower voice. I still get paid for the performance. It doesn't matter. That's about it.

I have every single ZZ Top CD that they ever made. They're from my neck of the woods as well.

Many agencies nowadays use original tracks but the original tracks cost a fortune. In order to get somebody like ZZ Top, you have to pay them anywhere between $200,000 and $500,000 dollars if you use the original tracks. What agencies do these days is they recreate a track that stays similar to the original. That sound alike and recreate that and you get a singer that kind of sounds alike but not so close because there's a law about that. That's what they do. That's what happens.

On the CD that you put out, Here And Gone, you do a lot of remakes and covers. Was there new material on there as well?

Yeah, I released a couple of new tracks of course. There's a couple of things as far as the cover songs, one was a cover of Foreigner called "Waiting For A Girl Like You". I had to redo it. A little while ago when they were looking for a singer, Mick Jones the guitar player asked me to see if I was interested. I said I was interested and I tried out for Foreigner and he loved my voice. Unfortunately or fortunately, I don't know, I didn't sound like Lou Gramm. He said I didn't sound like Lou, I sounded more like myself. They were looking for someone who would sound like Lou Gramm and that's basically it so they hired Kelly. Kelly sounds great. He sounds just like Lou Gramm. Nowadays a lot of multiple big bands are looking for replacements, someone that can sing just like the original singer.

That's kind of cool in a way and kind of not so cool in a way. With Van Halen, I was actually glad that Sammy Hagar didn't really sound like David Lee Roth.

Of course. Look at AC/DC. They found someone that didn't sound like the original singer. They went ahead and made so much money. But an original band like Journey and Foreigner are always looking for somebody that sounds just like the original singer. You know what? You canít fool the audience. They might as well go for another type of singer that would be a great singer. That's exactly what Queen did. When they were looking for a singer, they actually got Paul Rodgers who sounds nothing like Freddy Mercury. I was kind of skeptical at first and then I got the DVD and I said "oh my God, he sounds amazing doing those songs." Because he did the songs his way. Not the way Freddy did them. That was a great success. AC/DC was the same example. They hired Brian Johnson and it was a huge success. Why again hire a singer that sounds like the original guy. Journey did the same thing. You heard they were getting a new singer?


He sounds just like Steve Perry. Even better than Steve Perry. But why?

I honestly believe that the singer can make or break the band. A band is basically a business and everybody knows that sometimes you have to fire employees and hire new ones. I think it's kind of cool if you try to get a hold of a singer who sounds different because you can do different things with that person and then when that person sings some of the old songs, he can basically do what you said, do it his way.

Of course and on top of it most of the replacement singers are not songwriters, they're just clones. They're just playing ball doing Top 40 and that's what they do. There's a difference between a songwriter and a singer. These guys are just singers. They don't write. They sound great but the result doesn't thrill me whatsoever but that's my honest opinion. It works for some bands and obviously a band like Foreigner who was looking for Lou Gramm's replacement, if you watch them live they sound great. Kelly their singer sounds just like Lou Gramm. Now it's not for me to criticize or say "oh, wow." I just can tell you that I will never try to sound like Lou Gramm. In fact I got an email from Lou Gramm about that. I'm not going to tell you the content of that email but we thought it was actually funny because I did a tour with Foreigner so he knew my voice. He knew that I'd never sound like him. There's only one Lou Gramm anyway.

I can just imagine what that email had to have said about that.

Well, it was just business but I'm a huge Lou Gramm fan and I think he's got his own sound. Why try to emulate somebody else's sound?

Yeah, I've got all the Foreigner stuff with him and his voice always knocked me out.

By the way, Kelly does a great job. If you go and see Foreigner he does a fantastic job. He's a great singer. He's a really, really good singer and he's a nice guy. I only have great things to say about him. But he's sounding just like the original singer so he's good at that. Personally, I don't like it. I mean when Deep Purple fired their singer Ian Gillen, or he quit, they hired David Coverdale who sounds nothing like Ian Gillen.

Yeah, he brought his own sound into that.

Absolutely, and that's why they kept and continue making albums. That's what I think it should be but obviously some bands are more afraid and they don't want to take a chance.

On your new record you said that the Japanese writing is bushido. Can you explain the bushido thing a little bit?

Oh, do we have to summarize. Bushido means the way of the samurai. What I mean by that is that nothing comes easy in life. Nothing. It's all a hard road. I mean for me it's a hard road. It was an incredible road that I was able to take but just like a samurai it was not easy. Good things, bad things, and bloody things. Whatever came with it. That's what I meant by that. On a spiritual level. If you think about it, it's like a long road. You study, you see beautiful things, bad things, and that's the way it is.

I was reading somewhere that you're into martial arts. When did you start?

I started when I was 12 years old. I went from one style to another. I started with doing judo and I didn't care much for judo. I mean I liked it but I wanted to do something else so instead of doing judo I did wrestling. After wrestling I did kung fu for a few years. After kung fu I went to karate. I tried different systems until I did tai boxing for many, many years. I did 10 years of kick boxing, tai boxing. I did a lot of fights and then I took some time off because your body needs to take some time off and also your spirit to find the energy. Down the street from my place I saw a different art that I didn't know about. I mean I knew about it but I didn't practice. It's called Japanese jujitsu and I fell in love with the art. I fell in love with the doctrine and I fell in love with the philosophy behind it. I also liked the fact, it is important to me, this is by all means the most devastating form of martial arts and it's the mother of all martial arts except of course kung fu but all Japanese martial arts come from Japanese jujitsu. I had a great teacher and he became my friend and I've been learning ever since. It's not about the violence in it. Believe it or not the more I do it the less violent I am.

With martial arts I think there's a lot more to them than the fact that they're good defense mechanisms because they also condition your mind.

Of course. What it really does to me is I get more calm. I get really calm when I do martial arts. I get really calm, cool, and if there's one thing I've learned from art it's respect. Going back to school with the word respect. Understanding respect, understanding others, and respecting others. That's one thing I needed. I just didn't need to go and hit somebody. It wasn't what I was looking for. I knew I could do that but that doesn't take me anywhere except jail or unnecessary violence. What I needed to learn is how to have respect for myself and have respect for others more than anything else and how to avoid conflict even if conflict is myself. That's why I love that particular form of art. It's very traditional. Really Japanese. You have the highest respect for your teacher and your school and you have to do things believe me most people would not do. Believe it or not, when your teacher asks you on Sundays to clean the studio tomorrow and be the dojo, everybody wants to be the dojo. Yeah, I want to come and clean the studio and sweep the floor. It's to show respect to your teacher and show respect to your dojo. Your school. It's an interesting philosophy that art. And I really love again it's a matter of respect to me. I learned again something that I forgot. It's called respect. I like it a lot.

I think a lot of people have forgotten respect. As a matter of fact I think a lot of people don't even know what the hell that word means.

Since I've been doing Japanese jujitsu I've avoided many fights. Even in bars I usually walk away from fights. As of years I would have jumped into it. Knowing that I know how to defend myself even though I'm small, people would always forget that and I'd cut them down. You know what? In the end I have just regrets. As of now, I just walk away from things in a very intelligent way and I'm actually happy. Nowadays I know how to handle things better from a psychological point of view. As long as you give somebody else respect, they can say "hey, this guy is cool." You always have an idiot next to you but...

I don't know where people get the idea that just because someone is small, they can't whoop up on people. Small people can kick your ass.

What I'm really into nowadays is a better understanding of myself and grateful of that philosophy and also realizing in a blink of an eye, you can just take somebody's life and somebody can take your life. So that also makes you think twice about doing something or seeing someone who wants to do something to me and my family. I think twice now. It goes so fast that you might as well try to stay away from those moments. If you can't, you have to do what you've got to do but why not try to just stay away from it. That's what I think. If you have to start a war with a country, why not try to negotiate as much as you can.

Yeah, I think someone needs to write George Bush and talk to him about that.

I was reading an interesting article a couple of days ago from the news on Yahoo and CNN that says the Bush administration has been basically lying to us since 2001. They've made false statements.

Honey, that boy has been lying since the day he was born.

That's pretty disturbing because that's cost a lot of lives. Unfortunately a lot of people died. It's really, really sad.

I could have told people back in 2001 that he was lying. I could see through that son of a bitch. I didn't like his father and I sure as hell didn't like him either. He was the governor of my state before he became President. He bankrupted the state.

Obviously he had some strong supporters which of course are the lobbyists. On the news he said that he and his friends have been lying to the American public in order to start the war. For some reason that news went undetected by a lot of people. It was on the news at night and I had the links. Someone sent me the links and it was big news on Yahoo but the next day no one talked about it. I really believe that the media is completely controlled by the government.

Oh yeah, they are. My friends, family, and I call Fox News the Bush Administration propaganda channel.

They say that since the Bush Administration, we have 25,000,000 unclassified documents that the people will never know what they're all about. To go back to our thing, why not negotiate instead of starting a war?

It depends on what you're starting the war about. For example, in his case, his wars are all about profit and power. The only way you can achieve that a lot of times is by subduing other people with violence and going on ahead with your nefarious, devious, and evil plans.

Yeah, very disturbing. Unfortunately nobody is doing anything about it. It's sad.

I read somewhere that you had adopted a little girl from China.

Yes, big news in my life. I went to China and I have adopted a little girl. She's a beautiful child. She's now two years old. I spent a month in China to do all the paperwork and administration work and a lot of stuff. I came back and me and my wife have adopted a beautiful Chinese girl. It's a great thing. It's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me in my life. Better than music. Better than anything else. It's an amazing thing to know she's growing up, watching her grow up, and I've had her now for seven months. What an amazing feeling. It's changed our lives completely. She was in an orphanage and she changed our lives too. That's the beauty of it.

I know you lost your son a while back.

Yes, that was a tough thing for us. You can't replace but there is something beautiful behind it.

It's not replacing. This is a brand new chapter in your life. It's a brand new adventure.

Yes, it is a brand new chapter and I'm really happy to have started the chapter with my wife and to be honest with you, it's an incredible moment. Every day I get to bring her to school and go pick her up. It's a great feeling. She's funny and she's two years old but she's very, very intelligent and she's bossy. I love it. She's great. I'm a good dad. I think I'm a great dad. I really take care of her. I don't have a lot of patience for other things that I have to send my wife. She's probably wonderful when it comes to that but on other things I'm really good. I give her a bath every night. I bring her to school and pick her up at school. I take her with me. I do music and she comes to my room and I play her some new music and she likes it. She dances to the music. She loves music.

We know what she's going to be doing when she grows up.

I hope so not but hey, if that happens why not.

It does a lot. I've noticed a lot of musicians' kids grow up wanting to do the same thing that their parents did. I was on your MySpace and I was listening to some of the songs on there. There was one song that you were singing in Spanish and I thought that was so incredible.

My dad was Spanish and that's a language I really love and I'm hoping to release that album that I meant to release years ago and hopefully it's going to happen. I tend to go towards international music nowadays instead of just rock. I tend to go to different things and different languages as well.

The song was a rock song but it was just sung in Spanish which I thought was really cool. I've decided to take Spanish lessons so I can communicate with some of my customers at work.

Well, it is a beautiful language. I think you're doing the right thing.

I listened to that song and I looked over at my Spanish language CD's and my little book and thought "he's telling me something."

It's a great beautiful romantic song.

You were talking about doing a NAMM show this weekend. How did that go?

NAMM was fantastic. I like to go to NAMM for one day only because after a while it's overwhelming you have to realize.

Yeah, isn't it like three days or something?

It's three days and over a period of three days you have half a million people going there so you can only imagine how crowded that is. I went there and I made some other friends and then of course I did an autograph session for the companies I am endorsing. After that I did a show last night and it was great. There was a lot of people at the show. It was a great venue. We had a lot of friends that came on stage. Ron Keel came on stage. He's a good friend of mine. The drummer of Great White came on stage. It was fun and there were a lot of people. It's a good venue and it's always good to do a good show that's well prepared and it's a lot of fun.

I'm still shell shocked over losing Kevin DuBrow.

Well, he died of a drug overdose.

Yeah, cocaine. I knew someone who was addicted to that stuff and then she got cleaned up. Then he died and I told her "see where that shit gets you?"

I think it does more to your living part than anything else. When you do drugs like that you're not yourself. You're not yourself towards others.

Yeah, when she was on that shit she was always frantic and talked a lot and was really nervous. That shit jazzes up your nervous system.

Absolutely. I was lucky enough to stay away from that. Really lucky. But that comes from martial arts. Habit. Martial arts pointed me to different directions and thank God I was never into drugs like a lot of other members were. The fact that I was in martial arts helped me stay away from drugs. You can't exercise, compete, and do a fight if you're using drugs. There's no way.

I think everyone should be into martial arts. I saw your "You've Got To Believe" video. That was really cool.

Thanks. What you saw on MySpace is a demo of it. The video will be finished Monday and that's just a demo of it. That's a song I'm pushing. Right now I'm looking for an investor in order to push the single and push the video to all the music sites. I'm going to need some marketing people to work with me. It takes money to take it further. Right now it's just at the entry level. That is just the beginning and then when it's finished on Monday, I'm going to need money to push it further and to hire a marketing team and radio team so I'm looking for that as we speak.

That's why you've been really, really busy.

Yeah, I need some money.

You were supposed to do a tour back in the fall with various bands and one of them was supposed to be Brett Michaels' House Of Love band.

That didn't happen. We were just about to go on tour and I don't recall what happened but that didn't happen. It's always usually a money situation. It is so hard to raise money to go on tour. You lose money when you go on tour. Promoters lose money. It's really hard to get someone on the road because it's so expensive nowadays.

You have to book all these different venues and then you have to make sure you have places where you can stay overnight. You have to make sure you have a nice comfortable bus instead of being scrunched up with 50 other people in a van. That all takes gasoline.

I do dates left and right with my other band. I have a band called Monsters Of Classic Rock.

I was going to ask you about that.

That has Chris Slade of AC/DC on drums. A couple of guys from the Steve Miller Band. One guy from the Huey Lewis & The News band. The bass player who plays for Rod Stewart. We do dates left and right. We do little dates and usually festivals or private parties and it's actually a lot of fun. We do songs that we have either written or been a part of or play live. We do a lot of things from AC/DC because of Chris. Same thing with Huey Lewis, stuff that Mario the bass player has written. He was the main songwriter in The News for 17 years so he wrote all the big hits.

I always loved that band.

Oh, it's great and once you play with the bassist, it's so amazing that he wrote all these songs. We do stuff from the Steve Miller Band because of the guitar player that was the main songwriter of Steve's. We do have fun. Those guys are older than I but they're so much fun. They're a lot of fun.

You were supposed to go out and tour with that House Of Love band and that gave me an idea. If someone were to approach you to do a reality show and they said that you had full creative control over it, what kind of a reality show would you do?

Interesting question. If I were to do a reality show.

You have total creative and artistic control over it. What kind of show would you do?

I'd do a reality show that's really real and not like one of those where everybody lives in a house. I hate those kind. I'd do the reality of being on the road. The real stuff. Being an every day man. It may be boring to some people but I think it's the real life of waking up and working hard as an artist. Every day life. Going to clubs, work out. A reality show for me is the reality, not something that's a fantasy. Putting people in a room is a complete fantasy because most of these people have nothing in common and they hate each other. If I do a reality show you'd have to come here with a camera and and see the way I eat every day. I take a bath, I take care of my daughter, and I go to my school. I train. That's my reality. That would be my reality show.

That's more real than what Gene Simmons has going on.

Gene's brilliant. He's a great business man and stuff but that's not a reality show. A reality show is when you follow me. People want to see the real stuff. Also I think people want to see fantasy so there's a fine line. People want fantasy and all these shows make you believe that people really live like that. They don't. A reality show for me is 24/7. Watch me when I sleep. That's pretty heavy, watch me when I get my daughter. Walk my dog and watch me pick up the doo doo after my dog when he poops. That's reality.

Well, I've seen a couple of episodes of Bret's Love House Of Sluts and I've seen Gene Simmons' show so I figured that would be a good question.

This stuff of Bret Michaels is really kind of ridiculous. All these girls that want to marry him and you expect him to find love.

They remind me of a bunch of old groupies who should have been back in the '80s

Same groupies but 10 years older and 15 pounds heavier. God bless the guy. He's doing fantastic and obviously making the right move for his career. I wouldn't criticize that whatsoever but however I won't call that a reality show. I call that a stupid show. That's what I think. Here's the bottom line. He wants to fuck them all. Why don't we get to the real reality show? Why don't we show Bret Michaels fucking all these chicks? That's the reality show. They'll get on the bike and go around the country with him. The chicks on the back of the motorcycle and they'll go to the recording studio. Watch them having sex with him. That's the reality I want to see. This is all made up. It's not a reality. Reality is that everybody looks like crap in the morning I'm telling you right now. That's my reality. You wake up in the morning and go "aw, man."

Any other thoughts or comments?

That's all good. It's all good to me. Thank you so much for the call. I appreciate that. I'm just on my way out to the real reality show. I'm going to go pick up my daughter at 5 o'clock. That's my reality.

Terry Ilous